In academia, we often encourage our students to make time to relax, but are we listening to our own advice? Teaching is a wonderful and rewarding path, but it also comes with a lot of work. That being said, it is important to take time to relax between semesters. I want to share my four favorite tips in hopes that you can find meaningful ways to relax and recuperate.
Here are my four tips to relax between semesters:
1. Be proactive
You might wonder, ”how can being proactive be relaxing?” Think about it. As professors, we often are planning ahead, thinking how to improve, and adapting our classes during the semester when our minds are already going at top speed. Between semesters, it can be relaxing to do some proactive planning without pressure. This could mean looking for new resources, incorporating new trends into classroom content, observing what is going on in society, or even revamping an old assignment.
It may feel like work, but being proactive has been found to help reduce stress. This can allow our bodies and minds to feel more relaxed as we prepare for class ahead of the game. For some, it may not feel relaxing in the moment, but it can often lead to relaxation once our proactive steps are complete. This relaxed state can often spill into our next semester since we are better prepared. I realize while this may not be relaxing for everyone, it is worth a try to see if it has a positive impact between semesters.
This may sound obvious since we must breathe to live. However, we often don’t take time to breathe as a form of relaxation. Breathing to relax can be done anywhere. It can be done with limited time, and it can have many rewards to our body (and soul). Breathing allows oxygen to infiltrate our bloodstream which can have a positive impact on the way we feel. In the rush of the semester, we often don’t take time to stop and mindfully breathe. It is a great thing to do between semesters to establish a strong habit that hopefully carries through to your next semester.
Breathing mindfully can have a positive impact during those stressful moments we too frequently have in education. If you want to try breathing as a method to relax, this mindful breathing article provides different tips and techniques you can try to use your breath to relax between semesters―and all semester long.
3. Forget the clock
We often watch the clock because it feels like time will escape us. We want to wrap up our day, reach a goal, hit a deadline, or complete a task. Watching the clock can actually lead to additional stress, which is far from relaxing. In fact, if we feel that we don’t have enough time in our day, it can increase our anxiety―which can be reduced by following these tips.
In the bustle of a regular semester, we often have to keep an eye on the clock (class plans, class times, deadlines, work-life balancing, etc.). It can help to relax by not focusing on the clock as frequently. Try sleeping in if you are able, don’t feel pressured to complete a task by a certain time, let your feelings (not the clock) guide some of your activities, and don’t worry about having free time.
This flexibility can relax the mind and rejuvenate the soul. If possible, find time to “forget the clock” between semesters and just enjoy each moment in your day without worrying about the next.
4. Try something new
In academia, our idea of “new” often consists of reading or completing new research. This is certainly wonderful, but sometimes it is important to consider trying something new outside of our field of study. This could be cooking a recipe we have been meaning to try, reading a new book, starting a new hobby, or learning something new. This can help to keep our minds relaxed, while at the same time continuously learning.
During the next semester, it can be a great talking point to share something new you have learned or completed with your students. It also forces us to step outside of our comfort zone and complete something that we have been putting off (i.e., our DIY project, the kitchen remodel, sewing up a hole in a sweater). The key is to try something new that will be relaxing, which certainly is subjective. There is no cookie-cutter activity to try. It is just important to try something that could help you relax between semesters.
Find your own way to relax between semesters
These are just a few simple ideas that can help you relax between semesters in a new way. Whatever you do, make it personal to your own interests and needs. We all find joy in different ways, and getting in touch with what works best for you as a means to relax is the first step.
Written by Christiana M. Bevier, a Professor in the Professional Studies department at Purdue University Global.